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Strategic Planning – It Doesn’t Have to be a Chore

For many organizations, the annual strategic planning process is like a trip to the dentist. It’s something to be endured rather than embraced.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In my experience, strategic planning is a great opportunity to bring the entire organization together around a clear vision and a renewed sense of purpose. People get excited when they understand how their day-to-day work helps the organization make a difference in the community. A great strategic planning process helps everyone in the organization focus on the things that matter most.

Building a great strategic plan takes a team effort. And there are many ways to approach it. But the best plans are built by inclusive teams that include both board members and staff. And it takes good leadership to bring people together, find consensus and develop a plan that everyone can embrace and champion.

Start your strategic planning process by putting together the team. Be sure to include staff members from all levels of the organization – not just senior management. Then clearly define what you want to accomplish and why. Does your current plan just need a refresh? Or do you need an entirely new plan? The answer depends on how much has changed since your last plan.

Once you know what you want to accomplish and why, then decide how you’ll go about building your plan. One other thing you’ll need to decide: do we do it ourselves or hire a consulting firm to help guide us through the process?

Then, start with the basics:

  1. Review your mission statement. It should be clear, concise and memorable. A good mission statement is something that your board, your staff and your donors can understand and remember. Ideally, aim for something no longer than a tweet. I find that 6 or 7 carefully chosen words can tell a powerful story about who you are, what you do and for whom.
  2. Next, take a look at your organizational values. They set the ground rules for how you operate as an organization – what you value, what you expect and what your staff can expect. Without clear values, it’s hard to know what kind of culture you want to create.

The next step is to take a hard look at the internal and external landscape. I’ll explore that topic in my next blog.